Watch this new documentary on the racist, ineffective war on drugs

Despite recent legalization successes in the Northwest, the U.S. war on drugs is still going strong–and new documentary Breaking the Taboo makes the urgent case for ending the racist, ineffective battle in under an hour.

The film, directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen and Fernando Grostein Andrade (and gloriously narrated by God Morgan Freeman), traces the history of the drug war through compelling interviews and news clips and follows the recent efforts of the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

The Commission and documentary have brought together some big names–including sitting and former presidents of the U.S., Switzerland, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and Brazil–to call for the end of the policies that many of them once supported. Even Bill Clinton can recognize that, whatever his aims when he supported the drug war, “it hasn’t worked.” That may be a politically unpopular opinion, but the documentary seeks to prioritize justice and evidence over partisan fears of looking soft on crime.

If you’re looking for more after finishing the film, check out Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In, another new documentary about the drug war, and his interview with The Nation. The transcript of the latter provides equal parts history lesson, policy platform, and inspiration. On Colorado and Washington’s legalization of marijuana and California’s vote to reform its draconian “three strikes” law last month, Jarecki says:

I think these are small victories, and I think we have to be very careful not to let small victories woo us into any sense of false comfort. We need a revolution in the war on drugs. We need to absolutely throw this thing out, relegate it to the ash heap of history and start again with real information about what drugs really do, about how they affect human health and about what to be afraid of and what not and how to treat people… A small victory like this doesn’t do that, but it does show that the system is vulnerable.

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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Join the Conversation

  • Michelle

    What does leaglizing drugs have to do with feminism? I’m a feminist but am completely opposed to legalizing recreational drug use. Find another place to discuss this.

    • Dan

      There is only one social justice; to seek gender equality without seeking racial equality is futile.

    • natasha

      I respect that you have a different opinion, but I think most of us here would consider the war on drugs a feminist issue. As it says in the post, the war on drugs is racist. People of color are disproportionately arrested and convicted for drug offenses, in addition to being given longer sentences. Being convicted for drugs can also be detrimental to the ability to move upward in life since it can limit future opportunities, such as not being able to apply for financial aid for college, which really hurts the poor and minorities. Punishments like these don’t help people rehabilitate. I think it is relevant to this site.

  • Loren Taylor

    @Michelle: Feminism, at it’s core, is a movement for equality. Whatever your personal beliefs regarding drug use, this is an issue that predominantly affects people of low socio-economic status. The war on drugs has become a vehicle for suppressing minority groups; as the documentary explains, a large proportion of prisoners in the US are there because of drug offenses, and minorities are highly overrepresented among the incarcerated. Feminism isn’t just about equal rights for men and women. Any dichotomy that supports an “us” and “them” mentality–regardless of whether that distinction is based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or drug use–promotes a cultural mindset that allows for oppression and inequality.